An A is the highest grade a food can receive. To earn an A grade, a food must be 100% natural (not refined or processed in any way). A-grade foods must also be extremely nutrient dense. These top-of-the line “super-foods” are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, carotenoids, phytochemicals, essential fatty acids, fiber and other healthy stuff that’s extremely good for you. For example, red peppers are the only food with an entire days worth of vitamin C. Tomatoes contain cancer-fighting lycopene. Spinach is rich in calcium and vitamin D. Orange veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash are packed with carotenoids. Asparagus is loaded with vitamin K. Deep leafy greens like spinach are nutritional powerhouses with ample quantities of Vitamin K, Carotenoids, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Vitamin C. All fibrous carbs, green veggies and salad veggies get an A grade. Fibrous carbohydrates, (green veggies and salad veggies) would even quality for an A+ because they have extremely high nutrient density with extremely low calorie density, making them ideal foods for reducing body fat.
Some dieters are afraid of starchy carbohydrates because they’ve been led to believe they are fattening. However, starchy carbs are not fattening or unhealthy, refined carbs and other man made foods are the real culprits. The A-grade starchy carbohydrates like yams, brown rice and old fashioned unsweetened oatmeal are staples for athletes, bodybuilders and fitness buffs. Other A-grade starches include black eye peas, lentils, beans (navy, pinto, kidney, garbanzo) and barley. It’s true that some people are carb sensitive, but don’t fall for the “all carbs are fattening” myth. Fat loss is all about calories in versus calories out and the type of carbs you eat…
The A grade starchy carbs are 100% natural, eaten almost exactly the way they come out of the ground. Most of these starches (with the exception of white potatoes and carrots) are also either low on the glycemic index or they have a nice balance between carbohydrate and protein, which causes them to be released slowly into the bloodstream as glucose. Even on strict bodybuilding or fitness competition diets, these are the carbs of choice for physique improvement.
Fruits, although they are considered a “simple carb” (fructose), are also on the A-list because they are natural and high in nutritional value. Fat burning nutrition isn’t as black and white as complex carbs and simple carbs. Simple versus complex is one consideration, but the far more important selection criteria is whether a food is refined or natural. Some bodybuilding guru’s even believe that “fruit is fattening.” For very strict fat loss diets for bodybuilding and fitness competition or on low carb diets for the hypoglycemic and insulin resistant, fruit is sometimes temporarily reduced or even removed. However, for overall health, fitness and body composition improvement, fruit should almost always be one of your top picks.
Rounding out the A-grade food category are A-grade proteins, which are the LEAN, complete proteins (those containing all the essential amino acids) and the A grade fats, which are those high in omega-3’s and other healthy essential fatty acids. Foods such as Salmon, which are high in protein and heart healthy Omega three fats could even be graded as an A+!
A-grade fibrous carbs
Green and red peppers
All other fibrous carbs, green vegetables or salad/vegetables
A-grade starchy carbs
Oatmeal (Old fashioned unsweetened)
Beans, all types Black eye peas
Slow cooked brown rice (long grain/basmati)
A-grade simple carbs
All fresh fruits (not including canned, sweetened, or juice)
Udo’s Choice essential oil blend
Fatty fish (salmon, trout, herring, sardines)
Extra lean ground turkey
Buffalo/Bison/lean game meats
Fish, all types
Non fat cottage cheese
Top round steak (leanest cut of red meat)
Protein powder supplements (whey, casein, or combination)
Skim milk (no fat)
A “B” is a good grade. Not the best grade, but a “good” grade nonetheless. Physique athletes (bodybuilders and fitness competitors) often drop out B grade foods prior to competitions, opting for 100% A-grade choices. This makes the diet much more restrictive.
If you’re a perfectionist, you might strive for “straight A’s,” and that’s fine. But keep in mind that it’s not only okay for you to eat some B grade foods most of the year, it might actually be a good thing because it makes your diet much easier to maintain. Adherence to your nutrition program is much easier when you give yourself more options. On the other hand, if you are preparing for a physique competition or you’re on a “peaking” phase, then you should “tighten up” your diet and get as many A-grade foods as possible.
There are many good B grade foods to choose from. Allowing products that are 100% whole grain, yet slightly processed (whole wheat bread, cereal or pasta, for example), opens up a whole new world of options and adds great variety to your diet. Why doesn’t whole wheat bread get an “A?” The only reason whole wheat bread doesn’t get an A is because it is processed. Although it may be whole grain, a loaf of bread doesn’t grow on a tree does it? It’s unsweetened (except for a tiny amount of corn syrup) but it is slightly processed. An all-natural food is one you eat in the same form that it came from in nature.
B-grade proteins include those which are still low in fat, but are not as lean as their A-grade counterparts. For example, flank steak is great, but not as lean as top round steak, so the top round gets an A and the flank gets a B.
100% whole grain, unsweetened boxed cereals
100% whole grain cooked cereals
100% whole grain pastas (amaranth, quinoa, wheat, etc)
100% whole grain breads (100% whole wheat, rye, spelt, etc)
100% Whole wheat pitas
100% Whole grain, unsweetened muffins
Quick brown rice
Quick oatmeal (unsweetened)
B-grade Proteins & dairy products
Extra Lean top sirloin
Extra lean ground beef
Extra lean red meats, other
Lowfat ground turkey
Non fat or 1% low fat sour cream
Non fat or 1% low fat cheese
Non fat or 1% low fat cream cheese
Nonfat or 1% low fat, sugar free yogurt
1% low fat cottage cheese
Whole eggs (1 whole egg per 5-6 whites is a good ratio)
Extra virgin olive oil & olive oil salad dressings
Natural peanut butter
Nuts & seeds
Reduced fat, reduced calorie salad dressings
A “C” is an average grade; not poor, not failing, but not good either. If most of your diet consists of “C” grade foods, your results will be average…not poor…not absent….but not good either. Breakfasts cereals like Cheerios are C list foods.
Most boxed cereals such as Cheerios only get a C because even though they’re made from whole grain oats, they’re sweetened with white sugar. If you go to a health food store you can often find generic brand Cheerios (usually called “oat o’s or “Oat circles, etc.) This would bump the grade up to a B. Any cereal sweetened with refined sugar automatically gets bumped down to a C. If the cereal is mostly sugar (think “Fruit Loops” or “Sugar Smacks”) it gets a D or an F.
C-grade carbohydrates are those which are processed or sweetened slightly, but most of them are still made from a whole grain. Starches that are processed (white rice) also get C’s because even though they are complex carbohydrates, they are rapidly absorbed and stripped of much of their original nutritional value. C-grade carbohydrates also include very calorie dense carbs, like fruit juice. Fruit juice is a fairly healthy food, but the high calorie density is not good when your goal is calorie control for a fat reducing diet.
C-grade proteins are those which are moderate in fat content and relatively unprocessed. Very low fat lunch meats are C foods, but generally lunch meats are not good choices because they are processed foods (not real meat, but a meat “product.”)
Cream of rice
Cream of wheat
Pasta made from enriched flour (durum semolina)
Whole grain, low fat snack foods (pretzels, crackers, etc)
Bagels Cheerios Sweetened and /or flavored oatmeal
Raisin Bran cereal (wheat flakes, sweetened)
Enriched wheat bread
Unsweetened fruit juice
Turkey thighs or dark meat
Lean Sirloin steak
Lean ground beef
Lean red meats, other
Very low fat sliced chicken breast (lunch meat)
Very low fat sliced turkey breast (lunch meat)
Very low fat sliced ham (lunch meat)
Low fat ham or pork
Low fat (2%) cheeses
Low fat (2%) cream cheese
Low fat (2%) cottage cheese
Low fat (2%) sour cream
Low fat (2%) unsweetened yogurt
A “D” is a poor grade, no doubt about it. If you’re eating a lot of D-grade foods, your results will be poor for sure. Most D-grade foods are also bad for your health. D foods are those that are high in refined sugars or made primarily from bleached white flour. D-grade foods also include proteins that are moderately high in total fat and saturated fat and proteins that are highly processed and refined. You might think you’re doing well by eating “low fat hot dogs,” but refined meat products – even those low in fat – should not be a regular feature in your diet.
High saturated fat content also lowers your grades. The role of saturated fat in disease is controversial, but at this time it still appears wise to keep your saturated fats low, regardless of what the “low carb gurus” are saying. High saturated fat foods are D’s and F’s. Also remember, fat and carbs together are a nasty combination. The lower your carbs, the more fat you can eat, but in this grading system in the context of a low or moderate fat diet, foods high in get low grades C or D.
Sweetened boxed breakfast cereals with no whole grains
Snack foods made from white flour (pretzels, crackers, etc.)
Bleached, enriched white bread (i.e., “wonder bread”) or white bread products Muffins and baked goods made with white flour, sugar and or hydrogenated oils
D-grade proteins & dairy products
Low fat sliced chicken breast (lunch meat)
Low fat sliced turkey breast (lunch meat)
Low fat sausage
Low fat ground beef
Cream cheese, full fat
Cottage cheese, full fat
Sour cream, full fat
Cream, half and half
High fat cuts of red meat
Reduced fat beef jerky
Reduced fat Hot dogs
Reduced fat Sausage
F foods are the foods you should almost never eat. And if you do ever eat them, it should be a rare occasion indeed (holidays, celebrations, once weekly “reward” meals, etc). These are the foods that not only spell disaster for your physique; they’re also horrible for your health. F-grade foods include the following categories: 1) foods containing trans fats, 2) foods high in saturated fats, 3) Highly processed or refined foods, 4) highly sweetened foods or foods that are pure sugar, 5) foods that are high in refined sugars and fats, 6) processed, high fat meats.
Foods very high in saturated fats and or trans fats
Hydrogenated tropical oils (Palm oil, Palm kernel oil, Coconut oil)
Hydrogenated vegetable oils
Very high calorie and high fat cuts of pork
Very high calorie and high fat cuts of red meat such as porterhouse and prime rib
Foods made mostly of white sugar or other refined carbohydrates (corn syrup, etc)
Soda (Coke, Pepsi, etc)
Sugar Sweetened beverages
Pastries and Baked goods high in both fats and sugars
Foods high in both refined carbohydrates and saturated fat
Hot Dogs on white bun
Fast food hamburgers on white buns (even worse with cheese, bacon)
Sweetened peanut butter
Chocolate milk (full fat, whole milk)